‘The Memory of Love’ is a beautiful novel by Aminatta Forna. I read this in June.
I absolutely love it, and it’s definitely a new favourite. I learnt so much, I had to stop and think about the many points, it made me feel really grateful that I can read, and even more grateful & so happy that I enjoy reading. When was the last time a book made you feel this way? Seriously. I love you Aminatta, and I’m coming for everything you’ve ever written!
The novel tells the story of the Sierra Leonean Civil war and the ugly aftermath of it, through the ordinary (sometimes not so ordinary) simple lives of the characters.
This solid story tells some hard truths. A lot of us are not guilty of looting reserve accounts, or taking chunks of “the national cake”. It’s easy to point fingers at the people up there, but the consequences of being passive and keeping quiet, not taking any real action are just as severe. She also addresses the Saviour complex that a lot of foreigners come to Africa with, and places side by side, the way they see things, and how things really are. Ms Forna is half Sierra Leonean and half English, so I think she brings this to bear in accurately comparing the two different perspectives.
The main narrative is in the voices of Adrian, an English psychiatrist working in the country, and a dying man Elias Cole. Still, you get to hear the stories of dashing doctor Kai Mansaray, the quiet & fiesty Mamakay and the other characters who make this story. The individual stories are so good, at some point I was wondering “What’s up? How do these go together?” and at the right time, bam- all the dots connected.
Particularly interesting is how mental health, a subject largely ignored in these parts, is explored. But what I love most about this book is that they stay. By they, I mean, Kai stays. Tejani comes home. Mamakay wants to stay and even Adrian almost does. The Sierra Leoneans remain in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is their happy ending.
We may wander, we may explore but Africa is ours and I’m convinced that the solutions to our problems lie with us. It’s not easy to love a place that has not given you plenty. A place where a lot of dreams just evaporate. It’s a little crazy to want to live and die in a world where a common thing like having a baby is so bluddy risky, where people die senseless, totally avoidable as Sefi Atta calls them “African deaths”. This is even more difficult when you know better conditions await you elsewhere, especially when you aren’t just looking for any green pastures to latch onto, but there are places where your energy and your talents would be more than welcome; there are actually opportunities for you to thrive.
It’s not that simple I know, and I also know that a lot is easier said than done, but whatever the medicine is, we are the ones that have it. Only we can fix our failed and failing countries. It’s not easy, but I think the best thing to do (probably not for ourselves or our offspring, but the best thing to do for our countries’ sakes) is to come back, is to stay. And be fully, actively present.
I enjoyed the mental journey to Sierra Leone, holding on to the details in their stories, even the character I did not like at first, Mr. Elias Cole. I really must visit Sierra Leone someday. I can see it, so beautiful in my head. 🙂 It’s a West African country, so I don’t need a visa. Can’t think of any reason why this journey won’t eventually happen.
This is a brilliant book and the author, an excellent story teller. I love to talk hair, but more than this, I love to read. And since I don’t feel like talking hair today, I’m doing this instead. 🙂
Currently, I’m reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe.
What are you reading right now? What’s the best book you’ve read in a while? Any thoughts on this review?